Hogan And Austin Had More Impact On Wrestling History Than The Rock
To many pro wrestling fans, the Holy Trinity of the WrestleMania Era are Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock. There were other very popular wrestlers in history such as Jim Londos and Buddy Rogers., but since Vince McMahon made the then WWF a national product the three most popular have been Hogan, Austin and Rock. Fans often argue about which of the three was the biggest star, especially between Austin and The Rock. I have to say each one probably had very comparable star power in their primes, and The Rock has unarguably become the biggest star of the three outside of wrestling. However, I have to say that Rock’s impact on wrestling history is considerably lesser in value than that of Austin and Hogan. I repeat, Rock’s impact, not his star power or popularity, is considerably less than that of Austin and Hogan.
I’ll first explain the impact of Hogan. When Vince McMahon expanded the WWF in the mid-eighties, his vision for a national wrestling product would not have taken off the way it did had it not been for the popularity of Hulk Hogan. Vince spent a good deal of money raiding other promotion’s rosters of their best talent and took big risks by touring across the United States, outside the north east where the WWF had an established market. If the first WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden did not sell out, many say the WWF could have gone out of business. Yet the company was a booming financial success during the eighties, and by far the wrestler most responsible for it was Hulk Hogan. All the financial risks McMahon took during this time period was an investment in Hogan’s star power. Many territorial promotions were run out of business during this time period because they could not compete with the WWF.
In the 1980’s Hulkamania was running wild. Fans couldn’t get enough of Hogan’s energetic promos, his overwhelming charisma, him tearing his shirt, his dramatic post-match celebrations, etc. Shows headlined by Hogan sold out all over the nation, in places previously outside the WWE’s established market of the north east. Millions tuned in late on Saturday nights to watch Hogan on NBC, including 15 million viewers to watch him defend the title against Andre The Giant, which to this day is the most watched professional wrestling broadcast of all time. If Hogan had never joined the WWF, there is no telling if the WWF would have become a national product, or if the system of territorial promotions would still be around today. Would WrestleMania have become the successful annual event it became with Hulk? Would the WWF, now WWE, have been the number one wrestling promotion for the large majority of the past 3 decades without Hogan? I seriously doubt it.
You can say Hogan just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and he was, but Vince has tried many times to create the next Hogan and failed many times. Business went down considerably when Ultimate Warrior won the title from Hogan and was the face of the company for about a year. Lex Luger got a huge push but he still failed. Bret Hart, as good as he was in the ring, didn’t nearly measure up to Hogan as a draw. Diesel power wasn’t a strong enough replacement. John Cena was a great draw but not in the same stratosphere as Hogan.
I should also mention that if Hogan did not walk through wrestling history, the wrestling boom that started in 1996 probably never would have happened. The N.W.O. was a great storyline, but Hogan turning heel and joining Hall and Nash gave the angle the extra momentum it needed to make WCW the number one wrestling company in the nation for the first time ever. Hogan had started another wrestling boom, only this time with another company. If WCW never built up such a big audience in 96 and 97, there would have been less fans tuning in to Monday Night Raw in 98 when the WWF made their comeback and the WWF probably would not have experienced their own boom period, nor would they have dramatically changed the presentation of their product with the theme of crash television.
Moving on from Hogan, in 1997 the WWF was experiencing a long losing streak in the Monday Night War. For over a year Nitro had defeated Raw in the ratings, and according to Bret Hart’s autobiography, Vince had plans to downsize the WWF to a regional promotion if things didn’t turn around. The WWF going out of business may also have been a serious possibility. During this time period however, Steve Austin was building up a lot of momentum and in the spring of 1998 at WrestleMania 14, Austin finally won the World Title and became the official face of the company. Three episodes of Raw later, they finally had another victory in the Monday Night War. 1998 was very competitive between Raw and Nitro, with Raw usually getting the better of Nitro in the ratings battle. During this time period the main event scene largely revolved around Stone Cold, but guys like Mankind, Undertaker, Kane, The Rock, Degeneration X and Vince McMahon as an on air character made major contributions as well. If it were a football team, the roster would have had serval great players making big contributions, but Austin was the quarterback, who was most responsible for the team’s success.
Fans could not get enough of Austin causing so much grief for his boss, Vince McMahon. Giving him Stunners, riding Zamboni’s to the ring, filling his convertible with cement, holding a fake gun to his head, beating him up in a hospital room, and so much more. Fans enjoyed every minute of it. They gave him huge reactions for almost every single thing he did, and bought his merchandise in record numbers. Had it not been for the phenomenon that was Steve Austin, the WWF would have continued on their downward spiral and there’s no telling how dark things could have gotten for them. Being run out of business was a serious possibility. Thanks to Austin, the WWF rallied back in the ratings luckily for Vince, we didn’t have to find out just how much worse things would have gotten.
Now, I’ve explained why Hogan and Austin had a major impact on wrestling. If either of them are removed from wrestling history, things probably change dramatically. However, I feel that if the Rock is removed from wrestling history, we wouldn’t see major changes like this.
Near the beginning of the summer of 1999, The Rock began seriously challenging Steve Austin for the number one spot in the company. In an extremely rare instance, we were seeing two wrestlers in the very same era who were about as popular as Hogan was in the eighties. In my opinion, Rock did surpass Austin from a popularity standpoint this year. I feel he started getting slightly bigger crowd reactions than Austin, and when Austin was out injured and Rock officially took over as the top face in the company, the ratings continued to rise. A big contributing factor to this was that WCW was in disarray at this point and no longer had a competitive product. But still, that doesn’t take away from Rock’s popularity.
However, if Rock is removed from wrestling history, I don’t feel much changes. I understand that when Austin was injured there was no one else in the company that had nearly the star power that Rock had. But Austin would only be out for about a year, the WWE had so much momentum going into Survivor Series 99, when Austin officially went out injured, and WCW was turning into such a mess on screen and behind the scenes. Without Rock to replace Austin, ratings would not have been as high in Austin’s absence. But WCW was so self-destructive that it was unreasonable to think they could turn the tide in the Monday Night War and start beating Raw again. Their ratings would have been a little higher, but they still would not have been competitive. They still would have been losing lots of money every week and Time Warner still would have ultimately made the decision in 2001 to remove WCW programming from their networks. The WWF still would have bought WCW and put them out of business. WWE would still be where it is today had Rock never been a part of the company. During the year Austin was out they probably wouldn’t have made as much money and we probably would have seen pro wrestling fade from the main stream earlier than it did without Rock. But the end result of the WWF purchasing WCW still would have happened.
If Austin had never been in WWE, and Rock had been built up enough by early 98 that he became the face of the company and had the same role Austin did that year, could he have made the same impact Austin did? I think he could have. I think Rock could have turned the tide the same way Austin did and Raw would have started winning the ratings battles again. But the way history played out, Rock wasn’t in the right position at the right time to make a lasting change on the product. Austin was, and he is the one who gets most of the credit for the WWF’s turn around in 1998.
Since WrestleMania started in 1985, the three biggest stars in pro wrestling have been Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, and The Rock. All three were extremely popular, however, I feel that Austin and Hogan were the two that had undeniable, lasting impact on the wrestling industry. Without Hogan, the WWF may not have become a national product, touring all over the country and making the WWF the number one wrestling promotion for the majority of the last three decades. Without Austin, the WWF may not have made a comeback in the Monday Night War and the company going out of business was a serious possibility. And while Rock was arguably just as popular as those two were, if Rock is removed from wrestling history not a whole lot changes. Ratings in 2000 would have been lower, but WWE still would have won the Monday Night War and put WCW out of business. Rock is definitely the biggest star of the three outside of wrestling arguably just as popular as them inside of it, but the level of his impact is drastically less.
Last edited by AliFrazier100; 05-24-2019 at 08:26 PM.